Clifford’s forecast shows Reign
The Kings’ Canadian native of Ayr, Ontario will test new boundaries, and the young forward’s new-found location boasts a familiar name. But don’t let words fool you.
For Kyle Clifford, it’s off to Ontario, California.
Clifford’s new digs are just a hop and a skip away from Downtown Los Angeles and Staples Center, a friendly 40 miles East on Interstate-10. It’s home to the closest professional hockey being played during the NHL lockout for Kings fans. It’s the East Coast Hockey League, it’s a forced option these days.
So now Clifford becomes the newest member of the Ontario Reign. The ECHL is considered the NHL‘s “AA” league, if we were to put it in minor league baseball terms. The “E” is a clear-cut level under the AHL in most facets, and comparable to many of Europe’s professional leagues. Skill wise, at least.
The ECHL is well-known for it’s gritty, physical, body-intuitive style of play. Oh, and there’s fights aplenty.
When the Kings drafted Kyle Clifford in the 2nd-round of the 2009 NHL Entry Draft in Montreal, Quebec, he was signed and playing with the OHL‘s Barrie Colts.
Clifford made just one other stop before making his astounding and immediate jump to the NHL. This came with the AHL‘s Manchester Monarchs for a quick seven games during the 2010 Calder Cup Playoffs. This short stint followed his third and final season with the Barrie Colts.
Since then, it’s been NHL-play and a Kings uniform on Clifford’s back.
As soon as Clifford hit the NHL scene, it was apparent there was little looking back. In his debut campaign with the Kings during the 2010-2011 season, Clifford chimed in beautifully in 76 regular season games for a 3rd/4th-line forward. Along with his seven goals and seven assists for 14 points, Clifford introduced us to his enforcer side with a whopping 141 penalty minutes.
In the Kings’ Western Conference Quarterfinals match-up with the San Jose Sharks in 2011, Clifford was an absolute horse – arguably one of the best players in the series. Clifford buried three goals, helped with two assists, and notched seven penalty minutes – in just six games.
Clifford didn’t disappoint this past season, but he didn’t show much progress stats-wise. In 81 regular season games, Clifford recorded five goals and seven assists for 12 points, and piled up another 123 penalty minutes. All of these numbers are down from his rookie season.
But then again, growth, especially for a young player such as Clifford, comes in many more ways than the stat-sheet shows. Numbers aren’t always the telling-tale.
The Kings have undoubtedly struck some value in Clifford’s presence, who’s unpolished talents have graced this roster — and it’s playing style, in just that form – unpolished. And that’s when he’s at his best, which is something special for a player to behold.
You can’t restructure a player’s style, you can’t change a player’s role, but you can certainly instill a system that puts their natural attributes to their absolute best use.
The Kings, in their development of Kyle Clifford, have done so — so far.
In your Kitchen: It’s worth noting (not really) that there are four (4) Romano’s Macaroni Grill locations within 20 miles of Citizens Bank Arena in Ontario. The fisticuffs with hapless minor league ECHL journeymen Clifford is bound to get into with is going to call for a few of those hearty pre-game meals.
Just like home, eh?
Still Closed: In league-wide news, Gary Bettman and the NHL have now officially canceled all previously scheduled contests through December 14. This, including the 2012 NHL All-Star Game, which was to be hosted on January 27 in Columbus, Ohio.
The Colonel’s in town: Kyle Clifford will make his ECHL debut tonight as a member of the Ontario Reign. This evening’s contest is scheduled to see puck-drop at 7:15PM at the Cow Palace in San Francisco against their division-foe San Francisco Bulls.
The Reign, who go into tonight’s dance with 15 games played so far, are making noise in the ECHL among Clifford’s arrival. They’re holding an attractive record that sits at 11-4-0 for 22 points. This positions the Reign at the top of the Pacific Division, and in a three-way tie for first-place in the entire Western Conference.
If not tonight, expect Clifford to drop the mitts soon. Fists fly in the ECHL like the scene’s on turf in a poorly-secured prison field.
A new league means new tricks. May I suggest adopting the ‘Inglewood Jack‘?
We’re not at the Forum, anymore
Another player gone elsewhere, another day.
It’s a tough go, these days.